F rom across the aisle Harry Bosch looked into his partner’s cubicle and watched him conduct his daily ritual of straightening the corners on his stacks of files, clearing the paperwork from the center of his desk and finally placing his rinsed-out coffee cup in a desk drawer. Bosch checked his watch and saw it was only three-forty. It seemed that each day, Ignacio Ferras began the ritual a minute or two earlier than he had the day before. It was only Tuesday, the day after Labor Day weekend and the start of a short week, and already he was edging toward the early exit. This routine was always prompted by a phone call from home. There was a wife waiting there with a toddler and a brand-new set of twins. She watched the clock like the owner of a candy store watches the fat kids. She needed the break and she needed her husband home to deliver it. Even across the aisle from his partner, and with the four-foot sound walls separating work spaces in the new squad room, Bosch could usually hear both sides of the call. It always began with “When are you coming home?”
Everything in final order at his workstation, Ferras looked over at Bosch.
“Harry, I’m going to take off,” he said. “Beat some of the traffic. I have a lot of calls out but they have my cell. No need waiting around for that.”
Ferras rubbed his left shoulder as he spoke. This was also part of the routine. It was his unspoken way of reminding Bosch that he had taken a bullet a couple years before and had earned the early exit.
Bosch just nodded. The issue wasn’t really about whether his partner left the job early or what he had earned. It was about his commitment to the mission of homicide work and whether it would be there when they finally got the next call out. Ferras had gone through nine months of physical therapy and rehab before reporting back to the squad room. But in the year since, he had worked cases with a reluctance that was wearing thin for Bosch. He wasn’t committed and Bosch was tired of waiting for him.
He was also tired of waiting for a fresh kill. It had been four weeks since they’d drawn a case and they were well into the late summer heat. As certain as the Santa Ana winds blowing down out of the mountain passes, Bosch knew a fresh kill was coming.
Ferras stood up and locked his desk. He was taking his jacket off the back of the chair when Bosch saw Larry Gandle step out of his office on the far side of the squad room and head toward them. As the senior man in the partnership, Bosch had been given the first choice of cubicles a month earlier when Robbery-Homicide Division started to move over from the decrepit Parker Center to the new Police Administration Building. Most detective 3s took the cubicles facing the windows that looked out on City Hall. Bosch had chosen the opposite. He had given his partner the view and took the cube that let him watch what was happening in the squad room. Now he saw the approaching lieutenant and he instinctively knew that his partner wasn’t going home early.
Gandle was holding a piece of paper torn from a notepad and had an extra hop in his step. That told Bosch the wait was over. The call out was here. The fresh kill. Bosch started to rise.
“Bosch and Ferras, you’re up,” Gandle said when he got to them. “Need you to take a case for South Bureau.”
Bosch saw his partner’s shoulders slump. He ignored it and reached out for the paper Gandle was holding. He looked at the address written on it. South Normandie. He’d been there before.
“It’s a liquor store,” Gandle said. “One man down behind the counter, patrol is holding a witness. That’s all I got. You two good to go?”
“We’re good,” Bosch said before his partner could complain.
But that didn’t work.
“Lieutenant, this is Homicide Special,” Ferras said, turning and pointing to the boar’s head mounted over the squad room door. “Why are we taking a rob job at a liquor store? You know it was a banger and the South guys could wrap it up-or at least put a name on the shooter-before midnight.”
Ferras had a point. Homicide Special was for the difficult and complex cases. It was an elite squad that went after the tough cases with the relentless skill of a boar rooting in the mud for a truffle. A liquor store holdup in gang territory hardly qualified.
Gandle, whose balding pate and dour expression made him a perfect administrator, spread his hands in a gesture offering a complete lack of
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